"As western society struggles with rising tensions, both within and outside of its borders, as those being colonized begin to throw their shoes in despair, and those who thought they belonged to the empire begin to realize that their dream is no longer sustainable, the organic intellectual is able to grasp the severity of the global crisis. As bankers announce their losses, the banking cartel slowly collapses. First, the major investment banks and hedge funds, then their traditional counterparts, all showing loses which only a year ago had been presented as ground breaking profits, as slowly the deck of cards unfolds and everything crumbles. Soon the job cuts begin..."
Witnessing the Decay of Western Hegemony
Saturday, 27 December 2008, 12:06 pm Column: Pablo Ouziel
Witnessing the Decay of Western Hegemony and the Role of the Organic Intellectual
Abstract: While the military might of the world's leading nations continues to expand, it has become apparent that western colonialism is abruptly coming to an end, yet the consequences are still not clear to any of the pundits traditionally involved in the discourse which has helped to build it. For many decades in the west, we have thrived on imperial expansion led by the United States of America and its allies, and legitimized by international bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, The World Bank and the United Nations. Today, this oligopoly of world domination is rapidly deteriorating and what only a few months ago seemed like the only option for humanity is today being severely put to the test. The organic intellectual must face these challenging times by offering viable alternatives to society so that a new world order can emerge out of the rubble left behind by liberal democratic capitalism.
Introduction Antonio Gramsci differentiated organic intellectuals from traditional intellectuals, by emphasizing the role of the former in cultivating roots within their communities to help develop a self-inspired organic consciousness. Accepting their position within the dominant ideology, according to Gramsci, organic intellectuals will ultimately support the working-class in developing an alternative hegemony within civil society.
For many decades, society has been indoctrinated with the belief that liberal democratic capitalism was the benevolent solution to all world problems. Through this model of society, hunger was going to be eradicated, wars would come to an end, the environment would be saved, and justice would be distributed equally amongst all members of the human species. Entering the new century, western society celebrated the new millennium with the euphoria of success, once and for all; we had entered the final face of existence, the one, which would bring upon the earth the mythical wonders of the Kingdom of Heaven. However, without having witnessed the passing of the first decade of the 21st century, this dogma has been broken and as many across the globe struggle for survival and society is marred by the continuous threat of revolving crisis, the time for the revolutionary transformation of the western ideal is upon us. Yet, the fundamental questions remain to be answered, how can we act? What can we do?
It is the role of the organic intellectual to answer these questions. If there are any left who have not yet awaken from their slumber, the time has come for them to abandon the petit bourgeois existence of the petty professor attending wine tasting events, the government bureaucrat justifying the wonders of his mind while working on the golf swing at the local country club, or the 1960s hippie, that after a stint in the Berkeley student movements went on to become a prosperous businessman. In today's holistic global crisis, one which threatens every single aspect of our existence – from the food we eat, to the air we breath, and to the way we interact between each other – those who in their youth considered themselves conscious individuals fighting towards change, can no longer hide behind the mask of the liberal democratic ideal of a capitalist society striving towards justice, peace and prosperity. All of these having remained ideals, while a reality of extreme misery for the majority, coexists today with the growing prosperity of a shrinking minority capitalizing on the growing pains of humanity.
In today's crisis, we will all perish together or we will overcome it together, and as professor Chomsky often states, "so much depends on will and choice". Yet, the choice at this point is between prolonged misery, constant crisis, environmental deterioration and continual war, or the possibility of working together in unison to overcome the hurdles, which we are facing. If we are to honestly look at what is happening in society, on any given day we can observe that the interests of the majority are not being respected and instead, the elites benefiting themselves, pitch to society the benefits of their choices by attributing everything to the trickledown effect – a warped inversion of reality which supports investing on those at the top in order to protect people at the bottom. I often wonder when I hear such discourse bombarded by government officials and experts through the traditional channels of propaganda, whether the rest of society is awake and paying attention, or simply asleep and indifferent. I can never be quite sure, because if indeed society is awake and paying attention, then we live in a world of fools, yet, if the indifference is attributable to being asleep, the task of waking up is a daunting one. One, which can only be carried out by the organic intellectual committed to revolutionary social transformation.
Decay of Western Hegemony As western society struggles with rising tensions, both within and outside of its borders, as those being colonized begin to throw their shoes in despair, and those who thought they belonged to the empire begin to realize that their dream is no longer sustainable, the organic intellectual is able to grasp the severity of the global crisis. As bankers announce their losses, the banking cartel slowly collapses. First, the major investment banks and hedge funds, then their traditional counterparts, all showing loses which only a year ago had been presented as ground breaking profits, as slowly the deck of cards unfolds and everything crumbles. Soon the job cuts begin, across continents furious workers revel against their enslaving owners, demonstrations, walkouts, sit-ins, failed negotiations between trade unions and shareholders. The sky is falling and the capitalist always strives to win. For a while, dormant workers watch their colleagues being laid-off, at first it seems an unavoidable aspect of capitalism, the dirty side of a casino culture, which rewards some at the expense of others. But then, neighbourhoods begin to witness empty houses, people evicted, squatters moving in, the law can do little to prevent it, the numbers are too big to contain. The lobbyists in Washington are eagerly fighting for pieces of the bailout money prepared by a government, which faced with complete anarchy must regain a foothold in the corridors of power. Confidence must never be lost. Hence, a new face in the White House, a new man, a new dream, perpetuated by the chanting of hope. But things will never be the same in America, as young bankers spend their holidays in despair not knowing if their job awaits them in the coming year, the dark thoughts of unemployment begin to creep in. Obama proposes solutions, three million jobs to be created by rebuilding the fallen infrastructures of the great American empire. An empire, which in its boom forgot to cement its foundations and now collapsing, will offer its unemployed bankers the opportunity to go and fix roads.
As America crumbles, its allies must wait and hope. they too must hold tight to the idea of a rebirth, they too must put their expectations and dreams in the hands of Obama. For the allies, there is not much more that can be done. They accepted the American way of life, they indulged in the great American credit card culture and now, millions of people around the globe are tied to the demise of Wall Street, thus the saying, "when America sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold." So, as frantic politicians of the axis of good scramble for some sense of stability for their countries, industries collapse, unemployment raises, and currencies begin to witness the prospects of inflation, deflation, stagflation, stagdeflation, and ultimately, what few dare to mention – depression and eventual collapse.
At this point, relations which in the good times presented themselves as strong and unbreakable begin to shake, governments of the allied countries, the client states, are trapped between their commitments to the emperor and the demands of their people – their people need to eat and the emperor demands that his people eat first. So, the economies of the allied countries begin to fall one by one. As they do, chaos breaks within their borders and internal factions begin to fight for power, possibilities of revolution or civil war are no longer too far fetched as American influence retreats and the ruling parties are left in a vacuum, like sitting ducks, waiting for factions to fight for the reigns. First, the riots break out in the weaker allied countries such as Greece, where corruption has been so blatant that the disillusioned youth go out to the streets. At first, it looks like a minor incident, but soon it is apparent that youth everywhere are inspired by such actions. As the months go by, riots spark up in numerous countries, those that no longer feel a part of the empire are now eager to burn it.
The majority of people no longer see the governments as representing their interests, rather they are understood to be puppets of the ruling elites, the capitalist class, and this makes them the enemy. It didn't have to be this way, but politicians have become so complacent that they flaunt the wealth accumulated through legalized corruption, something, which although accepted by the courts, is no longer accepted by the angry mobs. So politicians begin to flee into exile – first, they fly to the ally countries, but soon they realise that they are not welcomed there. Their presence can destabilize already fragile situations, so they hop from country to country, finding eventual refuge in some far away land, in the same way that Nazi war criminals ended up in the jungles of Latin America.
In the meantime, the military might of America and its allies keeps getting stretched, and the wars that were begun can no longer be effectively fought. With the unpopularity at home and the increased resistance of those being attacked, it seems like a retreat is in sight, however, the military commanders and the corporations involved in the creation of weapons of mass destruction, refuse to let go of this opportunity to continue their expansion. So the war continues, with every shell fired helping to discredit an act, which was presented as a necessary evil to liberate humanity from tyranny. Now the war is seen for what it is, an unjust act of aggression designed to conquer whole populations and generate profit for the small ruling elites. The United Nations, once believed to be a fair moderator of conflict, is now showing its face as the mechanism for justification of the mega-powers – it is no longer sustainable, it is now viewed as an aggressor. The International Monetary Fund is running out of funds and must call on the rising empires to support its transactions. As for The World Bank, it just passes from corruption scandal to corruption scandal, until soon it too will become obsolete. So, as the international institutions crumble and the allied countries collapse, America is left in debt with an internal discomfort brewing and external wars being lost. What was once a colonial project based on the strategy of sticks and carrots, has run out of carrots and all that is left, is the stick to continue the expansion. It is at this point that the American empire must decide between an all out war against the rising empires, or the acknowledgment of defeat. All empires rise and fall, what America can do, is to choose between a graceful fall and the third world war. For those in power the choice is clear, it is now essential for the people to speak loud and promptly. Will there be war, or will there be revolution? It is the role of the organic intellectual to promote revolution rather than war, but how? And what kind of revolution?
The rise of the organic intellectual movement Mahatma Gandhi knew that soldiers had weapons when he chose to promote the path of non-violence. He also knew that only through this method India had a chance of transitioning from colonialism to a self-ruling nation, without descending into civil war. He understood the sacrifice people would have to make when they stood in front of guns with only their faces of indignation to protect them from their oppressors. The sacrifice proved worthwhile. Similarly, as liberal democratic capitalism comes to an end, the only option for western society to liberate itself from the chains of its ruling elites is to confront them through organized non-violent actions. It must be the role of the organic intellectual, to promote this path and educate the oppressed about its benefits, while proposing effective methods of direct communal action.
As the situation deteriorates in the west, there is no doubt that violence is going to increase. As the population begins to react to what is happening, governments will increase their police forces and will redeploy their militaries to monitor civilian streets – events, which are already apparent in certain areas of the United States. Yet, violence breeds violence, and we can no longer afford to take this route. So, as governments take bold steps to increase the controls of the civilian population and the clampdown on dissent becomes apparent, those who are currently ruled, need to understand the tools they have at their disposal in order to invert the pyramid of power. However, this reversal of the power structure in society requires sacrifices, and the sooner we all understand this, the faster we will be able to obtain true democracy based on peace, equality in front of the justice system, and sustainable prosperity for all.
Helping people understand this reality is the role of the organic intellectual. Of course, this is not an easy task, and it requires many people working together, using the tools at their disposal to build effectively coordinated information networks designed to empower the population. Many networks already exist at present, actively educating and organizing communities through grassroots efforts aimed at direct action, yet, the kinds of coalitions, which can reshape society in a revolutionary way are currently lacking friction. In America, the last time anything like this was actually lived was in the 1960s. Since then, groups have been fighting for their rights isolated from each other, which has allowed liberal democratic capitalism to contain them and appease them, without jeopardising the continual and coordinated expansion of the colonial project.
It is therefore the need to organize and unite outside of the elite power structures, which must be prioritized if there is going to be any kind of revolutionary transformation of western society. Once this step is acknowledged by the organic intellectual, and dealt with in a coordinated manner, efforts can then be directed to the numerous direct action initiatives, which are urgently needed: Putting an end to home evictions and making sure that everyone has a home. Organizing global trade unions, which can counteract capital strikes by paralyzing the capitalist economy and lobbying the demands of the workforce. Initiating consistent global demonstrations, requesting the halt of military investments and the dismantling of the war industrial complex. The start up of cooperatives focused on the development of new forms of sustainable technologies and alternative methods of production. The creation of community based and owned banking institutions. Coordinating the development of collectively owned community farming initiatives. The structuring of worker managed goodwill delegations, travelling around the world encouraging substitute forms of collaboration between countries.
Of course, these are only a few options out of the many which can be proposed and acted upon by an organized population, so these can only serve as suggestions, as organic intellectuals strive to unite existing grassroots efforts in coalitions designed to radically transform society. Sympathizing with the reality of the majority of workers – whose workday is committed without much choice to staying afloat within the strenuous capitalist economy – it is understandable that a critical mass is only achieved after many have been forced into poverty. However, it is the role of the organic intellectual, to educate the population about the consequences of not acting boldly and committing to the revolutionary project while still in the workforce, rather than having to do so later, when exposed to the charitable mercy of the ruling elite after being laid-off.
As things continue to deteriorate in the western world, these words will make much more sense. I do hope however, that a majority grasps this view before it is too late to avoid the third world war. Although, judging by the reflexes of society in predicting the current financial crisis, it might take a declaration of war before people understand where we are heading. The truth is, that unless the population is empowered and revolutionary, this event seems unavoidable at this point in time, when the ruling elites are amassing more power, the working class is clasping to its wages, and the industrial military complex is expanding at the fastest pace in the history of mankind.
Pablo Ouziel is a sociologist and freelance writer
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